Nearly one-in-five American women ends her childbearing years without having borne a child, compared with one-in-ten in the 1970s, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.
While childlessness has risen for all racial and ethnic groups, and most education levels, it has fallen over the past decade for women with advanced degrees. In 2008, 24% of women ages 40-44 with a master’s, doctoral or professional degree were childless, a decline from 31% in 1994. However, the most educated women still are among the most likely never to have had a child.
Over the past few decades, public attitude toward childlessness have become more accepting. Most adults disagree that people without children “lead empty lives” and children increasingly are seen as less central to a good marriage. 41% of adults said that children are very important for a successful marriage, a decline from 65% who said so in 1990.
Among women born in 1960, 17% in the U.S. were childless at approximately age 40, compared with 22% in the United Kingdom, 19% in Finland and the Netherlands, and 17% in Italy and Ireland. Rates ranged from 12% to 14% for Spain, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and Sweden, and from 7% to 11% for several Eastern European countries and Iceland.